How to Start a Restaurant in South Africa

how to start a restaurant in south africa

Opening a restaurant in South Africa is an exciting venture, but it comes with a series of legal and regulatory steps that must be followed to ensure compliance and successful operation. Below is a comprehensive guide covering the essential steps and requirements for opening a restaurant in South Africa:

  1. Building Planning and Zoning
  • Zoning and Use Rights: Verify that the location of your restaurant complies with local zoning regulations. This includes ensuring that the area is zoned for commercial use and that your restaurant’s operations align with any specific zoning restrictions.
  • Public Access and Parking: Ensure adequate public access and parking facilities. This is not only a convenience factor for customers but often a legal requirement.
  • Fire Safety Inspection
  • Fire Department Approval: Before applying for a construction permit, get your restaurant plans approved by the local Fire Department. This step is crucial for non-residential buildings to ensure adherence to fire safety standards.
  • Company Registration
  • Legal Entity Setup: If you’re establishing a private company ((Pty) Ltd), you must register it as a legal entity within 60 days of starting operations.
  • Documentation: Submit certified ID copies of all initial directors and incorporators, power of attorney if needed, and any name reservation documents if applicable.
  • Trading License
  • License Requirement: Acquire a valid business or trade license, mandatory for restaurants, coffee shops, taverns, and similar establishments.
  • Health and Safety
  • Certificate of Acceptability for Food Premises: Apply for this certificate to ensure your restaurant meets health standards.
  • Tobacco Compliance: If your restaurant includes a smoking area, comply with the Tobacco Products Control Act regarding smoking in public places.
  • Taxation
  • Tax Registrations: Register for Company Tax, VAT, PAYE, and Skills Development Levy. Note that businesses with a turnover above R335,000 are required to pay tax.
  • Labour Compliance
  • Employment Legislation: Adhere to labour legislation, including minimum wage and employment conditions. Also, register for Workmen’s Compensation.
  • Consumer Protection
  • Compliance with Consumer Protection Act: Adhere to the Consumer Protection Act 68 of 2008, which promotes fair and sustainable trading, if you supply goods or services.
  • Entertainment Licensing
  • Broadcasting Licenses: Obtain a license for broadcasting or playing sound recordings in your establishment, either from the South African Music Performance Rights Association (SAMPRO) or the Southern African Music Rights Organisation (SAMRO).

What is the Average Cost to Start a Restaurant in South Africa?

One thing to factor is the average cost to open a restaurant in South Africa. While not overly expensive, you will still need a substantial amount of money to have a successful restaurant business. According to GreaterGood SA, the breakdown of average start-up costs based on the types of restaurants are:

  • Fast food restaurant: R1 million – R1.5 million
  • Casual dining restaurant: R2 million – R3 million
  • Fine dining restaurant: R3 million – R5 million

However, in certain cities like Cape Town or Johannesburg, the cost may be higher based on higher rent and wages, and in some smaller cities could be lower.

How Big is the Restaurant Industry in South Africa?

According to Mordor Intelligence, the South Africa Foodservice Market size is estimated at 7.58 billion USD in 2023 and is expected to reach 17.22 billion USD by 2029, growing at a CAGR of 14.65% during the forecast period (2023-2029).

Additional Tips for Success:

  • Market Research: Understand the local market, competition, and customer preferences.
  • Business Plan: Develop a comprehensive business plan outlining your concept, financial projections, marketing strategy, and operational plan.
  • Quality Control: Maintain high standards in food quality, hygiene, and customer service.
  • Financial Management: Keep a close eye on finances, including costs, revenues, and profitability.
  • Adaptability: Be prepared to adapt to changing market trends and customer preferences.


Opening a restaurant in South Africa involves navigating through various legal and regulatory requirements. From obtaining the necessary licenses and permits to ensuring compliance with health, safety, and consumer protection laws, every step is crucial for the smooth operation and long-term success of your business. By meticulously following these guidelines and maintaining a focus on quality and customer satisfaction, you can set the foundation for a thriving restaurant business in South Africa.

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